Explore the History of australian football

Edith Cowan

​1921: Marking Time

In 1921, Western Australia passed legislation allowing women to stand for parliament. The following year, on 12th March, Edith Cowan became the first beneficiary of the legislation when she was elected for the Legislative Assembly seat of West Perth. A Nationalist, she was keenly interested in domestic and social issues, which she felt were not being given adequate attention. Hers was not a long political career, however. She lost her seat at the 1924 election and failed to regain it three years later.

William Hughes’ Nationalist Party retained a somewhat tenuous grip on power in 1921. Despite having a numerical majority in parliament there was always the risk that some of his own party members might defect over specific issues, a risk which became greater over time as his rather truculent and arrogant leadership style undermined his popularity. Basically, Hughes had been lauded both at home and in many overseas countries for his “performance” at the Versailles Peace Conference, and if truth be told this had rather gone to his head. His full comeuppance would arrive in 1922.

A number of overseas developments were, or would soon retrospectively become, of particular interest to Australians. for example:

  • On 23rd May, in Leipzig, war crimes trials commissioned by the Allies against nine German Great War veterans got underway. They were popularly lambasted all over the world, and in 1922 all charges were quietly dropped. 
  • The Irish War of Independence was ended and a truce signed by the British government and Irish forces. This paved the way for the establishment of the Irish Free State which ended up including the whole of Ireland with the exception of six northern counties. The Irish Free State would remain in the British Commonwealth, a new name introduced to replace the somewhat less palatable “Empire”.
  • On 28th July Adolf Hitler became the chairman of the National Socialist German Workers' Party.
  • In Russia, by the end of the year the Communists no longer faced any viable military threats to their authority.​
  • On 23rd November in Italy a paramilitary group declared itself a political party: the National Fascist Party (Partito Nazionale Fascist). The party's leader was Benito Mussolini (El Duce).

In the southern states of Australia the national game of football achieved new heights in popularity. Enhancing this, the VFL finals series proved to be one of the most exciting ever. In the semi finals Richmond overcame Geelong, and minor premiers Carlton downed Collingwood. The clash for the flag between Carlton and Richmond, which took two matches to resolve, is covered here.

Arguably the main event in the VFA in 1921 was the withdrawal from the competition after eight rounds of North Melbourne, which made an ultimately unsuccessful bid to join the VFL. Williamstown won the premiership with a 3 goal victory over Footscray in the decisive match.

Arch rivals Port Adelaide and Norward contested the SAFL challenge final in front of a record crowd of 34,800. The honours went to the Magpies, who won a low scoring encounter by 8 points. Another highlight of the year was Dan Moriarty’s feat in becoming the first man to win the Magarey Medal on three consecutive occasions.

East Perth were still the team to beat in Western Australia. The Royals overcame East Fremantle by 31 points to register their thrid consecutive premiership triumph. In 1921 the WAFL introduced a fairest and best player award, the Sandover Medal. The inaugural recipient was Subiaco ruckman Tom Outridge, although in 1997 a retrospective award was made to Perth's Cyril Hoft who had originally finished second to Outridge after an umpires' poll.

Other premierships went to Cananore (TFL), North Shore (NSWAFL), South Brisbane (QFL) and Waratahs (NTFL).

The fourth Australasian football championship series in Perth involved just the three major football states: Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Host state Western Australia won the title.


by John Manifold

This is not sorrow, this is work: I build

A cairn of words over a silent man,

My friend John Learmonth whom the Germans killed.

There was no word of hero in his plan;

Verse should have been his love and peace his trade,

​But history turned him to a partisan.

Far from the battle as his bones are laid

Crete will remember him. Remember well,

​Mountains of Crete, the Second Fire Brigade!